- Jennifer Deus was almost nine months pregnant when she learned she had breast cancer.
- Doctors performed a caesarean section at 36 weeks so that she could start her treatment soon after the birth.
- This is Deus’ story as told to Jane Ridley.
This essay as stated is based on a conversation with Jennifer Deus. Edited for length and clarity
I enjoyed every minute of my baby shower when I was eight months pregnant with my third child.
The pregnancy had gone smoothly. It was exciting to think about my two daughters, Isabelle and Hannahbel, who were 2 and 4 at the time respectively, finally meeting their little sister.
But a week after the shower, I noticed that the tissue in my left breast had hardened. My armpit had started to swell and hurt.
I asked my OB to examine my breasts at my next visit. I saw his face when he examined me. “It might be nothing, but we should just give you an ultrasound,” he said.
The scan showed two lumps in my breast and one in my armpit. I needed a biopsy. I called my stepmom and she told me not to worry so much. I said, “No mom, I think it’s breast cancer.”
The biopsy proved me right; I got the results on October 5, 2021. It felt like my whole world came crashing down. I thought, “What will happen to my children?”
My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath. I had nightmares because I kept thinking about the cancer inside my body. I had been told it was stage 2B.
Patrick, my husband, stayed positive. He hugged me and said, “We’ll get through this together.”
My doctor said she would take care of me and my unborn baby
I cried and cried. Then, suddenly, I gained strength. “I’m not going to cry anymore because crying won’t do me any good,” I told my husband.
I had no choice but to fight. I had two small children and one in the womb. They depended on me. I had to make it right with them.
The doctors I met at Palm Beach Health Network were amazing. My breast surgeon, Dr. Elena Rehl, said she would take care of me just like her sister.
The medical staff thought it was best for me to deliver the baby at 36 weeks. The oncologist told me she was worried that all the hormones during my pregnancy would make the cancer grow faster. He said he would need treatment as soon as he left.
I was worried about the baby coming four weeks early. I thought it might affect their development. But my OB reassured me; she said the baby was already seven pounds and would be fine.
Ishbel was born by C-section on October 15, 2021, about a month before her due date. I felt a surge of energy as they placed it on my chest. I thought, “She doesn’t know that mom is sick.” Then I thought, “She doesn’t know that I might not be there for her when she grows up.” It made me want to fight even more.
I was determined that cancer would not stop me from living my life
I started chemotherapy at the beginning of November. I could barely walk into the hospital because I still hadn’t recovered from the c-section. The first day of treatment lasted eight hours. It was tough both mentally and physically.
But I moved on. I cooked a meal for Thanksgiving. My husband said, “You really don’t have to do that.” I said that cancer would not stop me from doing the things I had always done for our family.
I had six rounds of chemo in total. The last one was in February this year. Most of my hair fell out. I changed the way I ate and started exercising. I knew the changes would have a big impact on how the treatment worked.
I was given the all clear in May after having a double mastectomy. I hope the implants are put in soon. I had radiation to be sure, but I finished it a few weeks ago.
I have never felt more alive. My experience with cancer has made me a better and stronger person. I love and appreciate my family more than ever. I am blessed that Patrick and I are able to raise our children as we had always planned.
People have said to me, “I’m so sorry about the cancer.” I don’t want them to feel it, because I don’t. At first, I thought it was a punishment. I now believe that if I hadn’t gone through cancer, I wouldn’t be the woman—and wife and mother—that I am right now.
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